Overview of Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the soft bones or skeletal muscles. It can also develop in hollow organs such as the bladder or uterus.

Signs and Symptoms of Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the soft bones or skeletal muscles. It can also develop in hollow organs such as the bladder or uterus.
Although rhabdomyosarcoma can develop at any site, but usually arise from:

  • Reproductive systems, such as the vagina, uterus and testes
  • Head and neck area
  • Urinary system, such as the bladder
  • Arms and legs

The treatment approaches used for rhabdomyosarcoma depends on the location and size of the cancer, the aggressiveness of the cells and the spread of the tumour (localized or metastatic).

Occurrence of Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is most common in children but can also occur in adults. In the US, each year 400 to 500 new cases of rhabdomyosarcoma are observed.

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Types of Rhabdomyosarcoma

Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma depend on the location of the cancer.
If the tumour is in the head or neck region, signs and symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Bleeding in the nose, throat or ears
  • Swelling of the eyes

If cancer develops in the urinary or reproductive system, signs and symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty with bowel movements
  • Trouble urinating and blood in the urine
  • A mass or bleeding in the vagina or rectum

If the cancer is in the arms or legs, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling or a lump in the arm or leg

Risk Factors of Rhabdomyosarcoma

The exact cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is unknown. However, it is suggested that certain medical conditions can cause this cancer. These include certain genetic abnormalities such as:

  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome: A genetic disorder that occurs rarely. It increases the chances of developing rhabdomyosarcoma at that point in life.
  • Neurofibromatosis: A condition that causes the development of cancer or tumour on the nerves.
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome: A condition present at the time of birth that causes overgrowth of cells especially on internal organs.



There are some factors that increase the risk of rhabdomyosarcoma such as:

Family History: The risk of rhabdomyosarcoma is increased if a family member such as a parent or sibling had cancer in their childhood. But this occurs occasionally.
Genetic Syndromes: There are some genetic disorders that increase the risk of rhabdomyosarcoma such as:

  • Neurofibromatosis 1
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
  • Costello syndrome

Health-Related Complications of Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma can lead to some serious health complications, such as:

  • Metastatic Cancer: Rhabdomyosarcoma is metastatic cancer that can spread from the starting point to other parts of the body. These types of cancers are difficult to treat. Rhabdomyosarcoma usually invades lungs, lymph nodes and bones.
  • Long-term Treatment Side Effects: The treatment approaches used for rhabdomyosarcoma are aggressive and have various side effects. These side effects can be both short or long term.


Preventing rhabdomyosarcoma is difficult. But healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of this cancer.

Treatment of Rhabdomyosarcoma | When to Consult a Doctor

Rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis usually begins with a physical examination of the patient that helps in the understanding of the symptoms. Further tests are recommended on the basis of physical examination and symptoms.

  • Imaging Tests

Imaging tests are usually recommended to diagnose the symptoms, check the location of cancer. Imaging tests that are commonly recommended include:

  • Biopsy

A biopsy is performed to collect tissues from the area affected by cancer. Tests can identify the cancerous cells and the type of cancer.
A biopsy can be performed in two different ways such as:

  • Needle Biopsy: In this biopsy procedure, a thin needle is inserted into the tumour and a small piece of tissue is removed.
  • Surgical Biopsy: In a surgical biopsy, either an incision is made to remove the entire tumour or a small part of the cancer is removed.

Doctors to treat Rhabdomyosarcoma

Last updated on Thursday 27/10/2022


Dr. Amjad S.K Durrani

Oncologist | MBBS, AFSA, Medical Oncology, DMRT

Wazir Habib Cancer CenterRs 3500


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Highly recommended. Very good doctor


Dr. Nadeem Zia

Oncologist | MBBS , DMRT , TTPS

Mid City HospitalRs 3000


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Highly Recommended


Dr. Amna Masood

Oncologist | MBBS, FCPS

Pak Onco CareRs 1000


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Highly Recommended

All Doctors treating Rhabdomyosarcoma